Jamie Hughes and Harry Ward were the first two players to secure automatic PDC Tour Cards on a dramatic opening day at 2019 PDC Qualifying School on Thursday afternoon.
The first of four days of action saw nearly 400 players battling it out to secure a coveted two-year Tour Card, with the final two players from each day winning a Tour Card automatically and ranking points allocated to other players to form the UK Q-School Order of Merit.
Two-time BDO World Championship semi-finalist Jamie Hughes made the switch to the PDC 12 months ago but was forced to compete on the Challenge Tour after failing to claim a Tour Card. Nevertheless, the Tipton ace made amends for last year’s disappointment in sensational style, producing a series of stunning displays at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan.
‘Yozza’ kicked off his campaign with a scrappy 5-3 win over Jamie Barrowman, before breezing into the last 64 with consecutive 5-1 wins over Sean Bell and John Bryan. The 32-year-old then recorded an impressive 5-2 victory over Scott Dale, before producing three majestic performances to storm into the semi-finals.
Hughes edged out Callan Rydz 5-4 in an enthralling clash; averaging 109.80 and firing in a brilliant 12-darter in the decider to prevail. The former Finder Masters winner then recorded successive 5-1 wins over Kevin Thomas and Dafydd Edwards, averaging 109.30 and 108.50 in those respective tussles.
This set up a decisive showdown against 2008 World Championship finalist Kirk Shepherd for a coveted two-year Tour Card. Shepherd edged out former UK Open finalist Barrie Bates in the last eight, but he was unable to topple Hughes, who recorded his fifth 5-1 victory of the afternoon to triumph; averaging 96.40 in the process.
“This has always been the dream for me and I’m over the moon to win my Tour Card on Day One,” said Hughes. “Last year I was a big favourite to win a Tour Card but I ended up playing on the Challenge Tour which toughened me up and stood me in good stead to go again this year.
“When I have played on the ProTour I’ve been losing with ton-plus averages so that showed me where my game needs to be at and today I think I produced the standard you need to be at to compete.”
In the bottom half of the draw, 21-year-old Harry Ward defeated former BDO World Championship finalist Mark McGeeney to clinch his spot on the PDC Pro Tour. Ward was a runner-up in the 2015 BDO World Youth Championship final, and has been a regular on the Development Tour and Challenge Tour circuits since 2014.
However, ‘The Hazard’ proved just how dangerous he is to claim a Tour Card at his fifth Qualifying School attempt, beating several established names en route. He kicked off his campaign with whitewash wins over Brian Doran and Ricky King, before defeating Gibraltar’s World Cup captain Dyson Parody 5-3; averaging 99.70 in the process.
Ward accounted for BDO number three Jim Williams to reach the last 16, where he dispatched James Kempster 5-1. Ward then defeated the experienced Richie Howson 5-3 in the quarter-finals, to set up an intriguing semi-final clash against McGeeney, who was the top seed at last week’s BDO World Championship.
‘The Gladiator’ dropped just one leg in his opening five matches, posting averages of 105, 107.40 and 101.90 en route to the semi-finals, but Ward turned the tables on him, averaging 103 and posting four maximums to secure the biggest win of his life. Nevertheless, with three days of action remaining, McGeeney is still well placed to claim one of the 17 available Tour Cards.
Ward told the PDC: “It’s an unbelievable feeling to have my Tour Card. I saw three lads from the Development Tour win their Tour Cards at European Q School which made me think I can do it too. I’ve been in finals on the Challenge Tour and Development Tour and never got over the line, but today I saved my best game till last so I’m delighted with that.”
There were a host of high-profile names in action at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, and reigning BDO world champion Glen Durrant suffered a surprise exit in the last 128. ‘Duzza’ clinched his third successive Lakeside title on Sunday to emulate the late Eric Bristow MBE, but Durrant was beaten 5-4 by New Zealand’s Darren Herewini, who recovered from 4-2 down to triumph.
Two-time Lakeside world champion Scott Waites, who lost to Durrant in Sunday’s final, was beaten 5-2 in the last 64 by rising star Jarred Cole, whilst Jim Williams, who was also beaten by ‘Duzza’ in the Lakeside semi-finals, lost out to a victorious Ward in the last 32.
Lorraine Winstanley, who reached the final of last weekend’s Women’s World Championship, claimed a famous 5-3 victory over legendary three-time world champion John Part. Winstanley averaged 88 to claim the scalp of ‘Darth Maple’ and also defeated Martin O’Boyle in her opener, before succumbing to Martin Atkins in the last 64.
The female participants acquitted themselves impressively in Wigan, with Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman both registering victories before bowing out in the last 256. Ashton defeated Adam Shanks before losing to Lewis McGurn, whilst Hedman overcame Oliver Green 5-2, before losing by the same scoreline to Gibraltar’s former World Cup of Darts representative Dylan Duo.
Anastasia Dobromyslova received a bye in the opening round, before edging out Rachel Brooks in an all-women’s tie, but her opening day assault was curtailed by Matt Padgett in the last 128. Elsewhere, former Lakeside finalists Fallon Sherrock and Corrine Hammond lost their opening ties against McGeeney and Jacob Cooksey respectively.
Former PDC World Championship finalists Kevin Painter and Andy Hamilton fell at the first hurdle on day one, after suffering 5-3 defeats against Mark Barilli and Richie Howson. Meanwhile, former Premier League participant Wes Newton secured three victories to reach the last 64, until he was whitewashed by an imperious Thomas Lovely.
Play continues on Friday with Day Two, with a further two automatic PDC Tour Cards available in the UK Qualifying School, alongside ranking points for the Q School Order of Merit. A total of six automatic Tour Cards will be won over the next three days, with a further 11 places available via the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2019 PDC UK Qualifying School Day One
Dafydd Edwards 5-4 Scott Baker
Jamie Hughes 5-1 Kevin Thomas
Kirk Shepherd 5-2 Nick Fullwell
Barrie Bates 5-4 Ash Hilditch
Harry Ward 5-1 James Kempster
Richie Howson 5-2 David Ladley
Andy Boulton 5-2 Stephen Burton
Mark McGeeney 5-3 Jonathan Worsley
Jamie Hughes 5-1 Dafydd Edwards
Kirk Shepherd 5-4 Barrie Bates
Harry Ward 5-3 Richie Howson
Mark McGeeney 5-4 Andy Boulton
Jamie Hughes 5-1 Kirk Shepherd
Harry Ward 5-2 Mark McGeeney